Ankle Bracing: An Effective Method Of Preventing Ankle Sprains
An ankle sprain typically occurs when there is a twisting movement which can injure the soft tissues around the ankle. Frequently the injury is stretching of the outside (lateral) ankle ligaments and this happens when the ankle is in a pointed position and then forced inwards. The biggest risk factors for an ankle sprain is a previous sprained ankle, meaning if you have injured your ankle before the likelihood of suffering subsequent injury at a later date is increased. Part of the physiotherapy approach to rehabilitation of ankle sprains is to work towards restoring balance control to help prevent re-injury. However frequently an individuals training or sport requires a return to activity sooner than this or full recovery can be achieved meaning frequently the wearing of ankle bracing during return to play is advised. Wearing an ankle brace has been shown to be an effective method of prevention for ankle sprains.
How Ankle Bracing Works
Wearing a brace helps to support the ankle and provide protection against twisting injury. Injury in ankle sprains frequently is as the result of a twisting situation where your body (the muscles) is not prepared for the movement and are too slow to react or don’t react strong enough to prevent the twisting. Common examples of situations leading to an ankle sprain is when landing from a jump and landing on someones foot or being knocked or bumped prior to the planting of your foot also when cutting or changing direction on uneven surfaces. A brace in these situations can work to protect where your muscles haven’t had time to react by preventing the twisting movement or by slowing the movement and giving your muscles time to react and kick in. If an ankle sprain causes the ankle ligaments to be injured seriously enough the ankle will heal with a decreased ability to maintain ankle stability and the ankle will have what is termed ligamentous laxity. Following a sprain with less support from the ligaments, taping or bracing the ankle can offer help to the muscles and tendons to substitute for the lack in ligamentous stability.
Ankle Bracing: Early Prevention Following Injury
Braces are frequently also used when looking to immobilize and prevent further injury early on following a sprain and in severe high grade injuries or complete tears can be work for weeks of the rehabilitation period following injury.
Who Should Wear An Ankle Brace?
Wearing and ankle brace is a sensible idea for athletes who have sustained previous injury and returning to high risk activities. However remembering wearing an ankle brace is not a substitute for good rehabilitation. For best results combining both ankle bracing and a comprehensive rehabilitation focusing on restoring range of movement, strength and balance control will give an athlete the best chance of avoiding future injury.
What Sort Of Ankle Bracing Should I Wear?
There are two basic types of support mechanisms offered with braces, one being the stirrup and the other being lace up. Stirrup braces are effective at preventing sideways movement of the ankle such as stepping on someones foot but are not as effective at controlling multi-plane movements (combined twisting and sideways movements). Lace up braces are better at resisting these multi-plane movements and depending on your sport a combination of a lace up stirrup brace where the outer stirrup straps wrap in a figure of six will give better support again to any sideways and twisting forces. Sports such as basketball, soccer and rugby codes where cutting and twisting movements are frequently involved I would advise on a combination brace. A sport such as volleyball where the risk is more landing on someones foot a stirrup brace may suffice.
How Long Should I Continue Ankle Bracing Following A Previous Sprain?
I typically advise most of my patients who suffer a significant ankle sprain injury that they brace or tape for around 6 months (up to a year following injury) if severity of the injury has created ligamentous laxity at the joint. If the ankle maintains its ligament stability and the athletes balance control is restored then personally I feel there is no need for long-term bracing or taping.
Should I Just Wear The Brace On Game Day Or Also For Training?
Any time you participate in high risk activities involving exercising on uneven surface or sports involving jumping, cutting and changing direction then bracing or taping to stabilize the ankle, providing extra support to prevent spraining is advised. There are plenty of opportunities in activities like this for injury regardless of it being during practice or match day.
Is Bracing Or Taping Better?
That decision comes down to a few factors, research comparing ankle bracing and taping show that they have nearly the same level of effectiveness. So one of the things to consider around making such a decision is expense, typically taping in the long run is more expensive because taping is not just a one of purchase like a brace is. Not only this taping is more time consuming, awkward and any effectiveness can depend on the skill of the individual applying the tape. However in certain sports and activities bracing may negatively influence performance. Braces are more cumbersome than taping and in a sport such as soccer a brace can effect the athletes playing ability where the feel of kicking the ball is negatively influenced by the more bulky brace. In situations like this or sports where footwear is required to be particularly sung I would suggest taping may be a better option (at least for game day when performance is key).
Disclaimer: Sydney Physio Clinic does not endorse any treatments, procedures, products mentioned. This information is provided as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice. Anyone seeking specific orthopaedic advice or assistance on Ankle Bracing: Ankle Brace Or Taping Which Is Better? should consult his or her general practitioner or physiotherapist.